The day started early with a drive to the tea farm at 600 meters or so. The farm is mostly organic, occupying some old and some newly acquired hills. These farmers are entrepreunerial and therefore, have become a systematized big enterprise, one of the largest in Fuding. First we checked out the white tea drying facility, a fascinating blend of the use of old and new technology. A coal burning stove blows hot air into a large room circulated by fans at the other end. In between are racks and racks of white tea leaves. The temperature is controlled at 35 degrees Celsius, and the hot air is blown through the wall through small square openings. That’s all the processing there is to White Tea! We sampled some of the ones made a couple of days ago and it was the freshest, brightest, most soothing tea with the longest wonderful aftertaste. We were quite happy to sit and drink tea all day long, but the day was getting on, and we hiked out into the mountain to see the bushes. Some major cuttings have taken place where the bushes were cut and burned down to almost root. But in a couple of months, bonsai like, the leaves will sprout out again, and in a couple of years, new growth will be available for harvesting.
It takes 10 lbs. of leaves to make 2.5 lbs. of dried leaves. It takes someone all day to harvest by hand, around 5-6 lbs. of leaf tips. It is painstaking and costly to pick white tea, especially organic white tea where the growth is slow and sparse. It is highly unlikely that authentic, Fuding white teas picked by hand, end up in your Snapple bottled drink regardless of what the commercial says.